Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

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Total Reviews: 900

Amyris Homme Extrait de Parfum by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Amyris Homme Extrait de Parfum (2019) is probably the last thing anyone expected to see, as an extrait version of the original Amyris Homme (2012) feels a bit unjustified because it was always meant to be "the mass appeal one" from the range, and mass appeal fragrances typically don't get the extrait treatment unless you happen to be Chanel. What the extrait treatment does for the Amyris Homme composition is not super obvious but substantial for those who are patient, although it won't make fans of those who hated the original. Primarily for this reason I have to make it clear that if you strongly disliked Amyris Homme, there is nothing for you here, but if you were on the fence about it leaning towards positive, the extrait formula might tip you over the edge. Likewise, if you are already a fan of Amyris Homme, you may enjoy this too, but also may see it as a bit redundant because as an extrait Amyris loses a bit of the sparkle that made it such a versatile stunner in the first place. I like this quite a bit but I don't know if I'd ever feel the need to own a heavier version of Amyris Homme because it doesn't feel like it needs to be heavier, even if I'm in the minority of guys in regards to projection being the number one facet to consider in fragrances.

In the most blunt way possible, this can be described as a thicker, smoother, and warmer Amyris Homme. The opening is the same sweet citrus and white floral overtones but this time rounded with bits of cinnamon and a sweeter mandarin edge. Rosemary seems to mostly back off from the opening, and the reminder that Paco Rabanne borrowed much of this for the DNA of Invictus (2013) also comes flooding back because now thanks to added sweetness, Amyris feels more like the designer ilk it inspired even more. Elemi and a light iris still play with each other in the heart, but now a saffron accord like the one in Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2014) also adds a bit of heft. Before long, the tonka base that anchored most of Amyris Homme becomes evident here, thicker and devoid mostly of the scratchy dry woody amber aromachemical punch that MFK listed as coffee and oud in the original. Amyris Homme Extrait de Parfum is ironically closer to being gourmand without these inclusions because of the added vanilla, but is still pretty versatile at least situationally. As with Amyris Homme, you also want to avoid overspraying because the extrait can be come a cloying nightmare if you do, which is a flaw it inherited from its papa. Wear time is over 10 hours and sillage is more noticeable but this is not a beast mode fragrance at all even if it fares better in colder weather or in romantic scenarios where sweet fragrances are often desired. I like this a lot, but I don't think I'd ever have a use for this myself, and I wear the original Amyris Homme a lot.

Amyris Homme Extrait de Parfum will disappoint fragrance dudebros with backwards hats and screwface smirks looking for the newest niche-quality club banger to troll for attention with on Instagram, but I don't think Maison Francis Kurkdjian is quite ready yet to go the Parfum de Marly route and fully sell his soul to the devil. If that devil was me, he'd only have to release a proper barbershop fragrance or stinky animal-parts chypre and I'd be ready to guarantee eternal life to the man but that will likely never happen, but neither will an MFK version of Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008). After all, Kurkdjian started his perfumer career with the banger-to-end-all-bangers that is Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1994), so does he really need to revisit such intentionally gauche territory with his own line? I think not. Fans of MFK's older more "niche-like" works will still hate this too, so the bulk of buyers for Amyris Homme Extrait de Parfum will be those willing to slap another $100 on the price tag for a little extra performance or people so in love with the original that a richer and warmer iteration that's really only marginally better in cold weather seems paradoxically like a must-have. For everyone else, approach with cautious optimism if you liked Amyris Homme to begin with, or pass along for the next one. Thumbs up.
20th September, 2020

Armand Basi Homme by Armand Basi

Armand Basi Homme (2000) feels like a test-build for Armani Code/Black Code (2004), which says all most people will need to know about the stuff. This is your now-common powdery spicy men's office fragrance built on tonka and vanilla then carried off by wisps of oakmoss and woody amber aroma molecules, prim and proper. Some people into exceedingly clean scents with a hint of bad boy spice may actually find this sexy, and I guess there is a certain appeal to that, but not for me. I wasn't much a fan of the snoozefest that is Armani Code, and despite this feeling a bit more complex (also read: less defined), it isn't quite enough for me to move the needle from tolerate to enjoy. That being said, I can appreciate what Olivier Cresp has tried to do with the light semi-oriental fougère structure here, and it smells more thought-out and sophisticated than most things in the same bloodline, even if I'd never reach for it myself.

The opening of Armand Basi is sweet citrus and cardamom with bits of cinnamon and some medicinal lavandin in place of rounder lavender to give a bit of that powdery fougère feeling. The cardamom does the heavy lifting in the opening but soon the heart of dusty nutmeg and white florals becomes the core of the wear. You have to like nutmeg to really enjoy Armand Basi Homme because it's very prominent next to the cardamom and lavandin. Unlike the later Armani Code, there's no weird waxy olive flower but there is a dry guiac wood note like in Code alongside whatever softer (and thus better) woody amber compounds were standing in for the later more-intense itchy ones found in Code, smoothed over by heaps of tonka. A bit of extra vanilla helps keep the woody amber base in check and a sliver of oakmoss also adds some natural vibrato to the final dry down. Wear time is about 6 hours so that's a tad short for a day-long office wear, but sillage is appropriately polite but present. Keep the bottle in your desk drawer if this is your daily driver.

Luckily, it seems like people like this enough that it stayed on the market despite its relative obscurity and trouncing in the face of "greater" competition from Armani, especially considering Code all but stole Armand Basi Homme's thunder. This means bottles should be relatively inexpensive, and even less than Armani Code sells for at discount, making Armand Basi Homme a cost-effective alternative where you're only dinged slightly on performance but get a smoother more-original take on the idea in return. I mean hey, this stuff did technically come first right? Should it ever be discontinued (as tends to happen with scents from these obscure B-movie type discounter darling fragrances houses), you can always just pick up Code instead. Armand Basi would release Basi Homme (2001) the very next year, which is an upped-ante version of the same idea found here, a bit stronger and punchier, but still in the powdery warm spicy semi-oriental fougère vein. If this sounds like a good time to you, check both of them out, it's not just for me man. Neutral
19th September, 2020

Brooksfield Men by Brooksfield

Brooksfield is an Italian menswear company with a rather English-sounding name, and comes across rather "casual dad" in nature with clothing that focuses on the usual trousers and overcoats look, turtleneck sweaters and tartan patterns galore. The brand launched a men's fragrance in the early 90's just called Brooksfield for Men (1993), and it's a rather conventional "fresh fougère" which at the time probably seemed pretty novel, as the newest iteration of the genre has just started picking up speed into the 90's. This fragrance is nice, and it's of the rarer breed of fresh fougère that sways more traditional fougère than freshness, but there are (or at least were) a ton of things that could also serve in the same place as Brooksfield for Men, so it never really had a chance on the market. The other problem here is few people outside of Italy or the EU even know of Brooksfield, as the brand doesn't get around much outside of a select few distribution channels beyond those areas, so most people haven't heard of the menswear brand let alone this fragrance unless they are from continental Europe, mimicking in some ways the semi-local nature of US designer brands like Tommy Hilfiger. The bottle is kind of neat, with a medallion in the front and giving me big time liqueur vibes, but all that comes with the territory when you aim for a mature menswear audience.

The opening of Brooksfield for Men is rather quiet, with bergamot, juniper, and a nice tart green apple coming to the front, very fresh and semi-fleeting as a soft lavender barbershop medly of tarragon and clary sage enter. There's some muted plum notes here, and a bit of vetiver that rests on a backdrop of cardamom, giving a dull spice and slight smoky sweetness to the mixture, but still feeling very fresh. Oakmoss, musk, and a noticeable cedar fill in the void, and overall Brooksfield for Men rests somewhere between Gilette Cool Rain (1993) and future releases like Quartz pour Homme by Molyneaux (1994), American Crew Classic Fragrance (2000) or the even-later Cabaret de Grès Homme (2004). All of these scents rely very heavily on clary sage for their aromatic backbone and all but the Quartz are fougères. Everything I've mentioned is also discontinued outside the Gilette, so the "fresh clary sage" masculine style as a whole is just about extinct in the mainstream realm, but I have a feeling nobody really misses it. Once more, this is a nice fragrance, and a different kind of clean compared to the aquatics and ozonics of the period, or modern ambroxan fragrances, but nothing about it leaps out and says "gotta have" unless you have a fetish for mild-mannered masculines. Wear time and performance on the lower side of average, and Brooksfield feels best in warmer weather social functions with strangers. Back then this stuff read like it was made for older guys, but now it just feels like an EdT adjunct to a shower gel/soap range.

Back in 1993 masculine perfumery as a whole was headed into an age of apology that wouldn't relent until all the retro-chic stuff Tom Ford was brewing at the time over at LVMH hit the market (also all doomed to discontinuation), and the super-shrill Y2K millennial male foghorns started ruffling feathers, meaning for the next decade or so, scents like Brooksfield for Men were the norm. Under these circumstances, Brooksfield is probably one of the better options because the alternative was tons of fruity shimmery metallic calone and aldehyde fragrances on soft green wood bases or aquatics riding a wave of laundry musk into your nightmares, at least beyond the fresh fougères. Semi-oriental fresh tobacco styles and gourmands became a thing then too, but these weren't the versatile daily wear solutions men wanted then and with standard fougères being ushered out the door along with chypres while animalic powerhouses sank into tar pits of their own making, Brooksfield for Men had all the makings of a successful middle option between the transparent aromachemical stuff and the old guard, if only it wasn't from a menswear range that sounds English but is from Italy. If you like these kind soft-spoken fougère exercises, grab it if you find a deal, otherwise your time spent excavating discontinued treasures is better spent elsewhere. Thumbs up.
18th September, 2020
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Chevignon by Chevignon

Chevignon Brand is a ready-to-wear fashion arm of Les Établissements Charles Chevignon, founded by the former and Guy Azoulay, and has always been centered around minimalism and a certain brusque aesthetic that seems more suited to men (even if they have had items for women in the past too). Perhaps best known for its jacket, denim, and leather accessories, Chevignon set its sights on businesses outside of fashion as early as a controversial (and failed) cigarette arm in 1990, then later a fragrance division launching in 1992 with the Bogart Group handling composition, manufacturing, and distribution. If this sounds familiar, it's because Bogart Group is home to both the Ted Lapidus and Jacques Bogart lines, producers of the most unapologetic and masculine fragrances on the planet, meaning the debut masculine Chevignon (1992) would be right at home there. Other critics in the past called this a cut-rate Ralph Lauren Polo (1978), and they wouldn't exactly be wrong, since Chevignon has strong similarities, but this is no clone. The whiskey flask bottle and old-timey writing on the front go hand-in-hand with the faux-Americana the brand tried to channel in a decade that was back-to-basics compared to the preceding one, although by 1992 stuff like Polo was the furthest from what young guys looking to grunge it up actually wanted.

The opening is very familiar to Polo fans, with artemisia and galbanum, dry bergamot and aromatic notes like caraway, swapping Polo's coriander for basil. The differences are slight at this phase, as Chevignon does not have the pine of Polo in the heart, although it has just about everything else save muguet and leather, the latter of which is moved to the base in Chevignon. This includes jasmine, carnation, rose, geranium, filling in the heart, leading to a transition into a lighter less-dense base spearheaded by that leather note. The leather is very rounded and spicy like Hermès Bel Ami (1986) but much softer, and some may say Chevignon veers closer to Ralph Lauren Polo Crest (1991) by this stage. Cedar, oakmoss, amber, musk, and that leather form the base of Chevignon, with the telltale tobacco and vetiver from Polo absent in Chevignon, using increased patchouli to bring in some resinous green feeling that steers more towards something like Givenchy Gentleman (1974) or Giorgio Beverly Hills for Men (1984) but with traces of the Polo "vibe" filtered through from the top and heart. Chevignon becomes its own beast by this stage, but just barely. Wear time is average at about eight hours but unlike most of what I've mentioned above, this is not a powerhouse fragrance at all, bringing the 70's/80's masculinity in line with 90's sillage. Best use would be formal situations where something green and mossy feels apropos, and likely more mature.

I like Chevignon but with stuff like Jaguar for Men (1988) still out there as cheaper viable alternative to vintage Polo, I see no reason to pay the steadily-increasing prices of the discontinued Chevignon. When this stuff was viewed as the cheap Polo alternative, it probably did Chevignon no favors which is probably why they chose to discontinue it in the first place. People who wanted Polo were going to buy current Polo regardless of formulation because brand cache matters to the average consumer, while fragrance collectors will either spring for the vintage Polo because "ermahgerd muh oakmossuses" or vintage "wood cap" Jaguar for Men, which is now the cheaper alternative for Cosmair-era Polo than the near-unicorn prices for the Chevignon. Logic dictates if you're going to overpay for a "rare and precious" vintage, get the original and not the reputed imitator right? Back in the day when Chevignon was new and common, I would have recommended it as a slightly lighter and perhaps more summer-suited alternative to fans of heavy green stuff like Polo or Givenchy Gentleman, especially since leather bases tend to shine in hot weather, but now I'd say only go in on a bottle of this if you're a collector. As it is now, Chevignon is a neat little historical blip, a transitory piece sitting between 80's power and 90's apology, but not worth the price of admission for any functional purpose beyond completing a display of such fragrances. Thumbs up.
18th September, 2020

L'Ombre des Merveilles by Hermès

I wasn't overly familiar with this line when going to sample L'Ombre des Merveilles (2020) in Nordstrom, but after taking wearable decants of the line home to test in my own time, I've discovered that this entry not only has zero DNA with the rest of the line, but perhaps the weakest performance of the bunch. In a rare move of cynicism from the brand, Hermès has given everything the modern mainstream fragrance user (that isn't a performance-obsessed dudebro) wants in a scent: brightness, freshness, cleanliness, and not smelling like anything they can negatively associate with something else. Imagine your typical "Karen" if you will, prattling off a laundry list of things she doesn't like and expecting the perfumer to work with whatever is left unnamed to make something for her, that is this fragrance. Abstract clean, brightness, warmth, transparency, and an undefinable "modernity" that really smells of nothing to me. Even smelling like water would be more definitive than smelling like this.

The opening of L'Ombre des Merveilles isn't so much an opening, as it is a thud of rounded clean. A flurry of laundry musks and a slight tea note greet the nose, and something that smells like the late dry down of a 90's perfume to say the least, but presented as the opening of this one. Seems we're not back to the old "upside-down note pyramid" of the original Eau des Merveilles (2004) however, as after this clean laundry attack subsides, we move into norlimbanol "incense" territory, a bit like Bleu de Chanel (2010) without the violet leaf, then a rounded semi-sweet slug of tonka in the base with the usual linalools and limonenes to polish the scent until it glows. This is utterly boring, and goes absolutely nowhere, but you'll smell "modern" for sure. Wear time is maybe six hours and performance is terrible. Either that, or I get anosmic to this stuff too fast. Wears unisex I guess, and best use for summer, like most of the line, but easily the worst to date. I just can't get over how much like nothing this smells, even more so than something from the Escentric Molecules line. Sigh.

I don't know what else to say about L'Ombre des Merveilles besides it really does feel like a perfume made for a neurotically dissatisfied person that makes it their life's mission to write corporate every time their coffee isn't perfect, or yell at the kids outside for playing because they have to turn up the rerun of their court drama they've already watched 15 times before. Real "my peas don't mix with my carrots" kind of perfume, and totally devoid of any worldly notes that might remind them of the time they had to eat a coworker's vanilla cookies, or someone spilled a bottle of lavender hand lotion in line next to them at Kohl's, or any perfume that might remind them of an ex they're still not over. Yeah, if you really don't love yourself, you might love L'Ombre des Merveilles, as it's the quietude of the void given fragrance form. Test and see for yourself, but this to me is the worst thing I've ever smelled from both Christine Nagel and Hermès. Thumbs down.
17th September, 2020

Eau des Merveilles Bleue by Hermès

Eau des Merveilles Bleue (2017) is a bit of a capitulation to men, whom found most of the previous Eau des Merveilles (2004) line pretty wearable, in spite of its feminine market copy. Here we see house perfumer Christine Nagel do what Jean-Claude Ellena has done and mostly dispense with the original "upside down note pyramid" theme of pillar entry, and just vibe off of key elements from it. Namely, the ambergris heart and the fresh citric oceanic notes that defined the dry down of that scent, bolstered with additional "proper" aquatic elements to turn the Eau des Merveilles accord into a proper aquatic fragrance, albeit a unisex one that will probably appeal more to men (like I said in the opening). It's always funny when a market segment a house wasn't expecting emerges and they're forced to make a product to meet that surprise demand. What this means to a casual fan of the original Eau des Merveilles is a more oceanic and possibly masculine feeling to the scent, so if a Hermès aquatic with a Hermès price tag sounds like your bag of chips, start munching my friend.

The opening here is a blast of aldehydes and juniper, with those notes quickly folding into the ambergris note of the original's heart. Again as with classic Eau des Merveilles, I can't really say if this is actual ambergris despite the market copy, but it has a breathy mineralic warmth and underlying marine muskiness, so it's a good take if synthetic. Additional "sea notes" are found in the heart, which mostly translate in my head to something ozonic in nature, then a base of denatured patchouli and ambrocenide for that "woody amber" feel most modern things have from the 2010's. Christine Nagel seems to be a fan of just naming two or three notes in her pyramids, so most of what I mention is detected not stated by the house, so your mileage may vary. Wear time is eight hours with average performance all around, best for casual outdoor summer use like at a BBQ or if you work outdoors. This barely feels unisex but leans more masculine to me, and anyone liking the original but not the heavier flankers that followed may appreciate this more since its closest by far to the first Eau de Merveilles in tone.

The bottom line here is this is Eau des Merveilles Bleue, is how it sounds, although could probably be named "Bleu de Hermès" if you really wanted to be cynical, since it has the appropriate house transparency developed since the 2000's but also the blue freshness the dudebros crave. I like Eau des Merveilles Bleue but like with the original, it plays in a crowded field and has a price tag that makes it a hard sell when there are so many things you could have which smell just about in the same ballpark for a fraction, mostly thanks to discounters crammed to the gill with those competitors. Hermès collectors who love these tilted sparkly bottles will jump all over this, and anyone looking for an aquatic that is "a cut above" in most respects to your average Bvlgari or Nautica scent will appreciate what Nagel has dished up here in Eau des Merveilles Bleue, although anyone with more niche-aligned tastes or an aversion to obvious synthetics use will poo-poo even more than the standard Eau des Merveilles. Nice, simple, fresh, but a bit overpriced for what it is. Thumbs up.
17th September, 2020

Eau des Merveilles by Hermès

I'm not the first person to bring it up I'm sure, but the point of Eau des Merveilles by Hermès (2004) is to create a feminine market fragrance that does not contain florals. This was apparently just before Jean-Claude Ellena picked up the reigns as house perfumer for the brand, so Ralph Shwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer were put to task on it, and their solution to the problem of a flowerless feminine perfume was rather unique: make a citrus and woods fragrance upside-down. Yes, that's right, the notes of Eau de Merveilles are positioned and proportioned so that notes typically on top are instead in the final dry down, and notes usually associated with the base come out of the sprayer on skin. I'm guessing this concoction worked, because it spawned a series of flankers, some inventive and some not so much. I don't think Hermès Eau de Merveilles smells much like genius, but it is good, and unisex despite the market copy. The Jean-Claude Ellena and Christine Nagel eras full of transparent nothingness and one-two punch accord structures have made erstwhile minimalist freshies like Eau de Merveilles seem redundant, even if they came first.

The opening salvo of oakmoss and vetiver is quite strange to the unsuspecting first-time sprayer, but the smell is quite aromatic and nice, being green and a bit woody, with a perfect set up for a transition into a nice cedar in the heart (which can sometimes be in the heart in normal fragrances too), flanked by what is claimed to be a rare use of true ambergris in a designer fragrance. I can't verify this claim, and to me it would seem cost prohibitive, beyond skirting various laws in various countries, but there is a sort of mineralic breathy muskiness that is a tell-tale of ambergris, but could just the same be a high-quality ambroxide compound. A bit of "watery freshness" that can only be described as a properly-chlorinated pool (some of you will know what I mean) merges into the citrus base of lemon and orange, given heft by a large dose of pink pepper and a hidden unlisted musk component, because no amount of citrus will anchor to skin for long. The smell is fresh and clean, not exactly "aquatic" nor really floral, but nice. Wear time is about eight hours, and performance is average all around. Suggested use would be summer for me, as a casual scent.

I don't think many people really pay attention to this line beyond Hermès fans or influencers on Instagram and YouTube, who get sent the latest bottles from this line to push onto their following, because I literally see nobody talking about this unless they're someone with professional-looking bottle photos taken with a Leica camera and at least 10,000 followers to their name. Most "average Joe/average Jane" types are stuck on main-line Hermès perfumes like Terre d'Hermès (2006) or older classics like Calèche (1961), but if you're the kind of person to veer into the Hermèssence, then you're also likely to enjoy this scent and its brood as well. The quirky built-in sprayer head and "tilt to the side" bottle base are nice to look at, as is the starry sort of bottle design that reminds of the later and discontinued Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight in Paris (2011), but none of that matters unless you just collect to display. Ultimately, this is a light and harmless freshy with a sunny citrus disposition and a bit of marine vibe throughout, but ends up being a bit of a high-priced alternative in a saturated market segment. Try before you buy! Thumbs up.
17th September, 2020

Replica Whispers in the Library by Martin Margiela

Not exactly terrible, but not anything to really write home about, Maison Margiela Replica Whispers in the Library (2019) is supposed to conjure images of old paper and fragrant wood shelves mixed with candles. The scent doesn't really do that for me personally, but what it does manage is pretty enough if you're looking for a calming scent to wear while reading. I'm not the biggest fan of the house going in, so my expectations were tempered thus, but even then I just barely "break even" with what's being presented.

The most simplistic of accords is this, opening with mainly an aldehyde and a bit of pepper. Supposedly cedar is here but if anything it's just Iso E Super adding woody volume, because beyond that, all I smell is vanilla. In fact, after about 30 minutes, this is primarily a vanilla scent, with no trace of old books or wooden shelves. I can see the candles comparison if those candles are vanilla, but that's it. Performance and wear time are teetering on below average, and I'd only use this as personal scent for home if at all. Best time of year is winter but you could get away with a scent this light in warm weather too.

Whispers in the Library is apologetic like a 90's light oriental, aimless to the point of insipid, but unerringly pleasant in spite of it. There are many better and more powerful vanilla fragrances plus Byredo does a thing about libraries that gets much closer than Maison Margiela Replica, so I'd check that one out instead. Not much more to say, a short review about a scent that by design has little to say itself. Any Sephora in the US should have this and elsewhere a perfume boutique, so it shouldn't be hard to track down, just try not to get too excited. Whispers in the Library is no page-turner. Neutral
17th September, 2020

Fior di Chinotto by Abaton Bros.

Fior di Chinotto by Abaton Bros. (2018) is one of three themed fragrances based around the chinotto planet, a type of citrus imported from China by Savonese sailors to Italy. The chinotto plant is called "citrus myrtifolia" outside Italy, or the myrtle-leaved orange tree, and the "chinotto" fruit themselves are typically used to flavor aperitifs and sodas. The bitter aroma of the chinotto lends it an almost "dark neroli" quality that becomes the primary facet of all perfumes in the Chinotto line by Abaton Bros. With Fior di Chinotto, we see mostly the blossom of the planet become the focus of a white floral musk composition, one that is marketed feminine but can really almost be considered unisex in tone. Two version of this fragrance exist; a parfum and an eau de parfum, and I am reviewing the former. Floral musks are a dime a dozen in the realm of niche perfumes, and all invariably overpriced, so what really sets this one apart from all the other option at the price point of a niche fragrance is theme.

The opening of Fior di Chinotto is fresh and sweet, with chinotto blossom, damask rose, and the chinotto fruit itself. This "dark neroli" aspect I mentioned comes out in full force, and can be seen as a halfway between blood orange and neroli in tone. Put another way, you get the sweet florality of neroli, but the dark deep uncanny-yet-still-citric vibrato of blood orange, which itself is typical more found in gourmands for that reason. After this dark sweet floral opening, jasmine and tuberose come in softly, to lift up and liven the mixture. Tuberose is very well-controlled here, barely musky or fleshy at all, and a big dollop of denatured patchouli (without terpenes) comes in to add a rounded nose feel. The base is surprisingly 1980's in tone, with a honeyed musk note over layed on top "white woods" (some kind of aromachemical again). The honeyed musk makes me think of powerhouses like Estée Lauder Knowing (1988) or Lapidus pour Homme (1987) but with a more-polite musk in place of their civet. Wear time is over 10 hours with moderate performance all around. Fior di Chinotto feels casual spring through early autumn to me, and fit for anyone.

The big kicker about Fior di Chinotto besides the novel top note is that sweet honeyed musk in the base, adding a bit of unexpected sexiness to an otherwise innocent fragrance made for picnics in the park. This is the kind of thing you'd catch in the air and go "oh what is that?" but think nothing of it if you couldn't find the owner, yet might consider snuggling up to said owner if it was someone in your company. For me, this makes Fior di Chinotto a dual-purpose kind of scent that could feel appropriate among strangers, or worn places where you'll bump into Mr. or Ms. right, yet nothing is overtly sexual about it. There's just something about a well-mannered citrus blossom and tuberose musk that feels both unassuming yet also passively come-hither, like everything hinges on context. The bottom line here is the scent sells for near the $200 price point for the parfum and closer to $150 for the EdT, which isn't horrendous for a niche fragrance, but can be a big bite to take for subject like this, no matter how exotic the source of your fruit. Still, worth a sniff. Thumbs up.
16th September, 2020

Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone by Giorgio Armani

Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone (2008) now goes by the name of Vétiver d'Hiver, but is for all intents the same scent (besides the change in juice color from gold to blue), and really isn't a vetiver scent at all. It should be noted my review is of the older version. Alberto Morillas composed this one, and in all honesty, I could have confused Vétiver Babylone for something composed by Francis Kurkdjian, because it has that same light white floral citrus and woody white musk vibe many things from MFK have, but is saved by the fact that it predates most the existence of the house by a year. Armani was dipping its toe into "niche" level scents like many designers were in the late 2000's, trying to cash in on the growing wealth gap and rise of the millionaire and billionaire classes, who all thirsted for exclusivity and conspicuous displays of wealth during a time when most people were suffering the "great recession". Niche perfume houses were keep to sell this kind of luxury, and brands such as Creed lead the way, but it was only a matter of time before corporate interests like that of most major designers wanted in too. The Armani Privé was Giorgio Armani's particular answer to that calling, and Vétiver Babylone was one of the earlier examples of what it offered.

Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone opens with a familiar floral citrus volley of bergamot, lemon, orange blossom, and citron. There's a bit of litsea cubeba in here as well, and the overall vibe is very similar to Maison Francis Kurkdjian Petit Matin (2016), making it quite possible that Kurkdjian found inspiration here in this scent for his later masterwork. The heart of green cardamon, coriander, and pink pepper varies a bit from the later Petit Matin, but the base carries a similar tune of ambroxan (a very early usage of it here), karmawood, white musks, and the slightest hint of vetiver. These trace vetiver amounts combined with the pink pepper and a lack of rose denote the biggest difference between Vétiver Babylone and the later Petit Matin, otherwise they are kissing cousins. Clean citrus, white florals, and a breezy transparent base that leaves a sharp trail are what lies in store for you with Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone, but at eau de toilette strength rather than the usual eau de parfum concentration in which these kinds of fragrances tend to be found. Inoffensive, fresh, unisex, light, and airy simplicity is what you'll find, with decent sillage and longevity, but maybe a bit too cheerful for a suit-and-tie office. Spring through summer weekends or day outings? Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone has got you covered.

The elephant in the room is whether or not to get the older Morillas take on this subject, or the newer Kurkdjian take, and I guess that comes down to what you're looking for in the genre. Other folks compare this more directly to Prada Infusion d'Vetiver (2010) or Roja Dove Elysium Parfum Cologne (2017) but I just really don't see it myself, having worn the dickens out of the MFK, my mind more closely draws parallels there. For me, this is a clean citrus scent with florals first just like the MFK, and the vetiver is an afterthought. Cost per milliliter is lower on the Armani Privé, but the quality and blending is much higher on the MFK (sorry Morillas), making Petit Matin feel more luxuriant. I also have to give fair warning that I hate so directly comparing two fragrances side by side as the bulk of a review for one of them, and perhaps things might have happened in reverse had I discovered this before MFK, but seeing as Armani Privé Vétiver Babylone gets less attention overall and is harder to sample (mine comes from a decant given by a friend), it's unlikely this would have happened the other way around. In short, you've probably smelled this, and smelled it done marginally better, if you're familiar with niche freshies of the 2000's and 2010's. Thumbs up.
15th September, 2020

Eleventh Hour by Byredo

I like this. I don't want to, but I do. Byredo is a house of smoke and mirrors for the most part, the price tag on their perfumes egregious, but this is one case where I enjoy what's being served up. Is it worth the price? Never, but that's not the point of a review is it? Eleventh Hour by Byredo (2018) covers the grim and edgy concept of the "last perfume possible on Earth", conceived at the end of time, or at least the end of life as we know it on the planet, when sea levels have engulfed most of the land and temperatures have made all but most extreme northern and southern places inhospitable to life. The ingredients chosen in Eleventh Hour signify the kinds of things that can still grow and produce perfume, like the Nepalese Ban Timmur, a plant related to Sichuan pepper that provides a minty citric spice tone to the perfume. The rest of this is going to be the prerequisite aromachemical wizardry that most niche labels of this tier produce, with frequent niche perfumer Jerome Epinette. I admit I'm not the biggest fan of his sometimes-derivative work, but he seems to be on his A-game here.

Eleventh Hour opens with that Ban Timmur note and a nice dry bergamot with some sort of aldehyde. A plum rum note comes through, with traces of fig and carrot seed. This boozy dry hay-like structure with the fruits and pepper transitions well into the tonka and oakmoss base of Eleventh Hour, boosted by cashmeran for a smooth woody feel and the glow of Iso E Super. Labadanum lends a chypre feel and overall this could be a cousin to Terre d'Hermès (2006), but with more fruit and spice. Oddly, I get something of an apple ghost note in here, but more like a mulled apple cider sort of vibe, enhanced by the tonka in the base. Eleventh Hour sits in a weird nowhereland between the chypre and the fougère in terms of structure, but it's very satisfying. Eleventh Hour lasts about eight hours on skin, with above average performance in terms of being noticeable to oneself or others, and feels best used in cold weather or indoors where humidity and sun won't make the warmer elements swelter. Eleventh Hour also feels pretty cozy/casual to me, but could make do in an office environment if it isn't a very structured sort of workspace with a strict dress code.

Eleventh Hour by Byredo doesn't 100% conjure "end of the world" imagery in its smell, but perhaps that's the point, since at the end of the world, people would look to something comforting to help them forget their imminent demise. Probably so too, does this perfume in our current (possibly ending) world help the wearer forget their own doom for just a bit, as it wraps that wearer in a dry fruity spicy woody "wool blanket" of scent. This is one case of a Byredo perfume where the conceptualization of a time or place is sort of irrelevant to the smell of the perfume being good or bad in my eyes, since if I caught whiffs of this on a collar or a passerby, I would immediately think of something joyous, welcoming, and festive, rather than a perfume simulating the state of the art during the end times. Yeah, this is fairly synthetic and won't please hardline worshipers of vintage oakmoss chypres or artisanal ouds, but do I really have to keep saying that anyway? Elitist cliques are tiresome and I grow tired of inserting caveats into my reviews for them. If the price is right, this may be worth checking out. Thumbs up.
15th September, 2020

Eau de Rochas Homme by Rochas

Eau de Rochas Homme (1993) is a peculiar perfume in regards to how it came about, but an amazing alternative to the usual "blue" aquatic or citric fruity laundry musk thing that was around at the time. Edmond Roudnitska created Moustache by Rochas (1949) as a then-unconventional citrus aromatic chypre for men, with a cologne-like arrangement of citruses and a sour musky civet note to enhance the sandalwood oakmoss base so it wouldn't feel too soft or feminine. Years after the men's citrus chypre was starting to run its course (mutating into aromatic or animalic chypres with added leather or balsamic bases of patchouli and benzoin), the green chypre was subverted and taken over by the women's perfume market, which was serving a population perhaps starting to tire of sweet aldehyde chypre perfumes living in the shadow of Chanel No. 5 (1921). The original Eau de Rochas (1970) came about as a retooling of Moustache by Nicholas Mammounas to make it universal in appeal. The scent itself was hot on the heels of Ô de Lancôme (1969), and would compete in time against Balenciaga Ho Hang (1972), Sisley Eau de Campagne (1974,) and Yves Saint Laurent Eau Libre (1975), but this early unisex bubble would fail thanks to stubborn male patriarchy and all of these would be shifted to the women's market save Ho Hang, which found popularity among men, and Eau Libre, which would be aborted. Eau de Rochas in time started seeing more use by men, so someone had the bright idea to reconfigure it for a proper masculine release to compete with aquatics, alongside the original 1970 version by then marketed to women.

So what is then Eau de Rochas Homme? A masculine born from a erstwhile unisex feminine market itself born from a masculine? It's hard to really say but what we got here is a chypre composed by Gilles Romey that reads almost like an eau de cologne, minus the usual hit of neroli. The opening is lemon, bergamot, mandarin, lime, and a smooth basil pushed forth by a puff of sharp metallic aldehydes. The heart is a slightly-dusty mixture of white florals, with far more listed than what is actually detectable by the nose. I get hedione and a bit of muguet over some dry rose and coriander myself, with that basil and tart citrus above squishing it into almost a Tom Collins-type effervescence. The base is a light sharp oakmoss and vetiver with traces of cedar, labdanum, an unlisted myrrh note and musk. Missing from the men's version but present in the original unisex/women's version are carnation, patchouli, and amber, all which really hit home the chypre feeling. Without those ingredients here in Eau de Rochas Homme, this is a few missing sea notes away from being an aquatic like Acqua di Giò pour Homme by Giorgio Armani (1996), but barring those aquatic elements, feels like the granddad of Versace Man Eau Fraîche (2006), bringing in the Mediterranean freshness albeit in a more traditional fashion than Versace does. All in all, this is a wonderfully bright, dry, crisp and clean fragrance perfect for after a shower, devoid of the usual soapy shower gel laundry musk smell that most things from both this era and this style tend to have. Wear time is sufficient but overall projection is close to skin after the first hour, with moderate sillage you can detect on yourself in fits and starts. This stuff is the definition of casual to me.

Eau de Rochas Homme is a total summer relaxation scent and I still think this reads unisex even when stripped down into "homme" cladding. The original Eau de Rochas could really be worn side-by-side with this as it's slightly more-floral and artsy cousin, while this "Homme" version serves as built-for-service utility without the fussiness of florals. I like to think of this as the answer to the question of "What if Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) lasted longer?", and although it misses some of the Earl Grey vibes of that classic, it still gets you in the same ballpark, which is all you can really ask for in something with the same basic structure but literally 5 times the performance. To think in the coming years it would be a game niche houses played, in all trying to create fragrances that took a traditional eau de cologne and suspended it in time with artificially-extended performance, then sending it back out into the world as "luxury" saying "oh look we can do this at great cost but it is worth it". Here is Rochas, basically doing the same thing almost by accident a few years before Bond No. 9 or Penhaligon's did it, selling it as competition against freshies like Davidoff Cool Water (1988) or the original Nautica (1992). In short, if you're looking for a fresh citrus fragrance that doesn't smell like soap or shampoo, and punches way above its weight in quality, Rochas has provided you just that by way of evolutionary happenstance. Also, don't worry so much about IFRA restrictions or reformulations, as this one was always light and never an oakmoss bomb. Thumbs up.
14th September, 2020

Blacks Club Leather by Shay & Blue

First thing's first, Shay & Blue London is what I like to call "Nouveau-Niche", or a niche house founded in response to the interest in higher-priced and more-exclusive perfumes rather than one born from any true desire for artistic expression via perfume and whatnot. Shay & Blue London is the brainchild of former Chanel Senior Vice President Dom de Vetta, who was also Global General Manager of Jo Malone London before he decided to take his ball and go home. So many executives with zero knowledge of how perfume is made end up taking this "I can do it better" path, and it does get tiresome, especially when they end up hiring a nose then asking them to make pretty much slightly less-derivative versions of all the same stuff already on the market, just with a higher price, a heavier bottle, and a puff piece to sell it. Blacks Club Leather (2014) really is not so different than that unfortunately, and it smells like something that could sell for $60 in a mall boutique (or $20 from Avon), but amped a bit in strength and going for $140+ instead. The official market copy reads: "Sophisticated, tasteful, avant-garde, traditional, egalitarian. These are all words that apply equally to Black's Club, the renowned members-only club in London's Soho district." Let me stop you right there. Egalitarian and members-only do not really get along well when describing the same thing, like rich Hollywood fake-progressives that pretend to have everyone's interests at heart but lunge for their lawyers on speeddial the instant someone asks them to be as charitable as they say they are.

The basic gist of Blacks Club Leather is to be a cleaned up and polished leather scent of some strength and character, just without the winching animal growl of classics like Hermès Bel Ami (1986). Since oakmoss is untenable and isobutyl quinoline out-of-fashion as a leather note, that really just leaves the usual soft suede smell of modern ambery leathers or the bootstrap and raspberries shtick of Tom Ford, but Shay & Blue doesn't go that way. Instead, they actually serve up something which to me doesn't feel like a leather scent at all, opting to use the same medicinal compounds as most designer oud-themed fragrances, stirring in some heavy woodyamber aromachemicals, and then gussy it up in the usual way these houses do. Problem is, I've smelled this before too many times, just not in a "leather" scent. The opening reminds me very much of Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002), or at least the "oud note" element of it, surrounded by some peppery notes. There is a "boozy" cognac note in the heart but to me that just smells like sugar in contrast to the grit on display in the opening, until it is followed by some kind of benzoin and ambrocenide/amber xtreme style molecule. Bogart One Man Show Oud Edition (2014) uses a bit of this, but luckily focuses more on the leather and oud aspects, while Avon Premiere Luxe Oud (2017) goes in more of a peppery traditional amber direction. Any "leather" that is supposed to be here just isn't, but this isn't bad. Wear time is over 10+ hours and sillage is steady, even if projection is thankfully not enormous. You know the drill, winter use or formal use, because this is a woody punch to the face if not used carefully. High heat in particular would make this mighty scratchy and unbearable, and may feel a bit too stiff for casual use.

I like Shay & Blue London Blacks Club Leather, and might even love it if it wasn't called a leather scent, but points must be deducted for delivering a very synthetic smell that comes across like the seventh son of a seventh son to M7 or even Gucci pour Homme (2002) from the Tom Ford era of LVMH. Shay & Blue has a lot of renown product in their catalog, and house perfumer Julie Massé is a talented woman, but this is perhaps unintentionally an insult because of the delivery. In essence, we have a scent named after a frou-frou gentleman's club in London, claiming to be a leather fragrance, smelling like a cut-rate synthetic woodyamber typically identified as "oud" instead, but still somehow coming out pleasant, solid-performing, and elegant if unoriginal. Again, if this was shopped by a mailorder house like Jafra or Oriflame, all would be forgiven, or even perhaps as the latest Zara Intense-Something fragrance, but it's in a Shay & Blue bottle and goes for the price of anything Montale sells at retail, which is a deal-breaker. If you are a collector of the house, this may be worth sampling, but if you're looking for something of this style, you have tons of more-affordable options. Likewise, if you're looking for a leather scent, you won't find one here so don't get burned by diving in blind, but if you like it, you could do far worse. I'll spare this one the axe because objectively it is nicely constructed, it just talks "the talk" of niche then fails to deliver on the promise of its own market copy, especially when the brand overall gets hyped to death by influencers on social media. Neutral
14th September, 2020
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Sopra il Mare by Bois 1920

Sopra il Mare by Bois 1920 (2018) is part of the "Collezione Youth" which is pretty obviously aimed at younger people (I hated typing that out). Perfumed by Christian Calabro (Bois 1920 and House of Oud), Sopra il Mare means "above the sea", and the idea was to impart saltiness of the ocean with the sweetness of white florals and tonka, offering a fresh/soft contrast that would appeal to younger people. This is mostly achieved through the novel use of fenugreek, which is an herb used in the Mediterranean to hide the taste of medicine or to flavor confections, having a maple-like taste/odor. I can see the appeal here for someone into sweet perfumes, but I'm not entirely sold, although I will say the idea of a 90's designer-style gourmand floral in 2018 from a niche house called Bois 1920 is not something I'd expect to be writing about, but here we are.

The opening is a salty marine note followed up by huge billows of jasmine hedione. Supposedly rose and lilac are here but the generic white floral blast here is very 90's, and if you told me this was either an Angel by Thierry Mugler (1992) or Calvin Klein cK One (1994) flanker, I'd have believed you. The fenugreek comes next, offering a gourmand twist that is love or hate really, but at least offers the most-intersting part of the scent profile. Beyond that, it's white musks, ethyl maltol, and tonka bean whipped up into a fluffy cloud with vanilla and a bit of patchoulol. Sopra il Mare reads very feminine to my nose and also feels romantic, too warm for hot weather, and not very sea-like beyond the brief opening salt. Performance can be cloying and oppressive, so beware the sprays. Best use for me would be fall and winter, although I wouldn't really want to wear this anywhere anytime personally. Angel was interesting because it had this metallic x-factor from helonial, and that added a mature edge, something this fragrance likely lacks on purpose.

Sopra il Mare by Bois 1920 is a fragrance where I cannot fault the quality so much (no harshness, no obvious seams or falling apart in the dry down), but it does read very 90's designer, in particular as something on the women's market at the time when sweet poofy fragrances were becoming the rage with schoolbound girls. I have nothing against the cotton candy perfumes of the day, but they're not something I'd wear, let alone pay niche prices for 20+ years removed from their peak in the market. What goes around comes around, so this style may get a second wind in the niche market (if it ever fully went away in the mainstream), but it isn't one I'd put my nose on intentionally, I just happened to run across access to a tester and here's your review as a result. Sample and see for yourself, although that may requite buying a decant due to Bois 1920 not being a found outside niche boutiques. Neutral.
12th September, 2020

Cannabis Fruttata by Bois 1920

Cannabis Fruttata by Bois 1920 (2019) is a flanker launched alongside the original Cannabis by Bois 1920 (2019), both perfumed by niche nose Christian Calabro. As with Cannabis, this doesn't fully resemble any marijuana I've smelled in my life, fresh on the plant, in a baggie, or burned in a joint/bowl/bong, and I've "been around" so I know the variations of smell different strains can have. Instead, we see the green citrus chypre that was Cannabis infused with some fruity lactonic notes, interestingly bringing this closer to a feminine market 1970's chypre like Charlie by Revlon (1973). The rounded feel this fruit note gives Cannabis Fruttata makes it smell a bit more like the "real deal", as some pot strains can have a bit of fruitiness to their "stank", but it's still not close to accurate. Lovers of stuff like Ninféo Mio by Annick Goutal (2010) or Diptyque Philosykos (1996) may have a bit more to love in Cannabis Fruttata over Cannabis, but that just about defines the major differences between these perfumes. I still don't get how a cannabis fragrance relates to a claimed short-lived 1920's perfume house brought back from the dead, but I may just be cynical about the oft-abused historical market copy.

The overall vibe of Cannabis Fruttata is a classic exercise in chypre without the use of the critical ingredient oakmoss, which as I mentioned in my review for Cannabis, can be a huge deal breaker for the artisanal-fartisanal demographic or the folks who won't wear a fragrance made after 1990. An uptick of labdanum does veer this closer to smelling like a "proper" chypre, but I don't know if I enjoy it more. The dry bergamot in the top is met with galbanum, then is met with the same "garrigue" herbal melange which makes this smell like a cross between kitchen herbs and yard clippings. A milky fig and peach lactone bring in the "fruttata", then a heart of clary sage (less dominant than the original Cannabis) appears. There is some floral nuance here in the heart too, but the base is the same cashmeran, patchouli, and labdabum but with more of the latter, and a breathy ambergris vibe caused by ambroxan. Wear time and performance are average but a bit heavier than original Cannabis, and best use is casual spring and summer wear, preferably outdoors where smelling like an herb garden will be à propos with whatever you're doing.

What Bois 1920 here has made is another abstract ode to a substance I am still shocked people want to smell like, especially considering that marijuna isn't universally legal and smelling like anything even remotely resembling pot (even if woefully innacurate) can still end up giving you unwanted attention from police. Considering the political climate of 2019-2020, that may seem like an even bigger faux-pas depending on where you live, and a potentially dangerous one at that. Still, if I smelled this on a person, I'd not think of doobies or dimebags, but rather some old musty fruity citrus chypre sitting in grandma's closet (and I do love stuff like that by the way), which is the furthest thing from hippie commune there is in my mind, because if grandma was a hippie back in the day, she would know the smell of pot too, and this ain't it. Still, nice for what it is and if the price is right, worth looking into, although sampling may be tough without purchasing a decant. Luckily, splitters seem to love doling out this house's products in decant vials on eBay so that shouldn't be too difficult if you don't have a niche perfume store near you. Thumbs up.
11th September, 2020 (last edited: 12th September, 2020)

Cannabis by Bois 1920

Cannabis by Bois 1920 (2019) doesn't really smell like pot to me, but neither do many of the fragrances seeking to channel the vibe of marijuana, possibly because I lived around so many who grew or smoked it most of my life coming up on the streets of Baltimore. Despite that, the smell is pretty good if green grassy chypre accords are your thing, or old-fashioned interpretations of vetiver a la Guerlain. Bois 1920 is supposedly a revived perfume company from 1920 that only survived 5 years in its original incarnation, but has since expanded into a mid-tier niche outfit (inbetween $100-$200 at least), long past the point of claiming to recreate anything from its alleged history. So many houses in this market segment take this play straight from the Creed handbook of "how to niche" that I am no longer riled up by it, I just gloss over the backstory and go right to the perfume. At the heart of it, this is a "nu-chypre" devoid of oakmoss, but containing everything else that would earn it an academic gold star for an aromatic citrus chypre, so if you approach it that way, Cannabis is easier to process.

Speaking of the perfume, Cannabis is composed by Christian Calabro, who has mostly worked with niche houses like Bois 1920 and House of Oud, so there is a certain expected element of "olfactive exclusivity" which typically translates to rehashing styles of 40-50 years ago and passing it as more luxurious than the abstraction that stands in for mainstream designer perfumes. In this case, we get dry bergamot right in the top, galbanum, the "cannabis" note (which smells like a garrigue blend of Italian herbs to me), then a heart of clary sage. Lots and lots of clary sage comprise this heart, with zero lavender or geranium to uplift and sweeten it, so you're reminded of a Wiccan shop with baskets of smudge hanging for sale (don't ask where I've been). After that, it's vetiver, cashmeran, labdanum, and dry patchouli boom pow! Wear time is going to be about 7 hours ish and sillage isn't huge, as neither is projection. This feels very spring and maybe summer oriented to my nose, but fall isn't out of the question, and no... this is not work safe. Where I'd use Cannabis? A day spent outside where the extreme green elements feel most appropriate is a likely place.

The big thing about Cannabis is green notes and dry citrus over a dialed-in mossless chypre base that might do well enough for modern noses but without said oakmoss instantly strikes out with artisanal snobs or vintage boomerites caught in an olfactive timewarp. Someone I enjoy talking to mentioned a "futuristic hive nose beyond the reach of IFRA" that is likely more open to abstract interpretation bearing little resemblance to that source inspiration (like Le Labo products not smelling like how they're labelled and so on), and that makes sense to me as the target when smelling Cannabis by Bois 1920. If you like "garrigue" style green fragrances, this is one to look into, but if you're wanting an authentic interpretation of cannabis bud you can wear on skin, this one is not going to get it done. Bois 1920 is a bit tough to sample, but you can order decants from splitters online in the worst case, as the shock value of something like a perfume based around pot makes good profit fodder for decant sellers, since folks might pay for the experience but not want to own a full bottle. Thumbs up.
11th September, 2020 (last edited: 12th September, 2020)

Figaro Lanvin by Lanvin

The shortest lived of the three initial Monsieur Lanvin (1964) flankers is Figaro Lanvin (1964), a fragrance that is actually only called "Figaro Lanvin" colloquially by collectors, since unlike Lavande Lanvin (1964) or Vetyver Lanvin (1964), this one remained a Monsieur Lanvin flanker and never saw spin-off into it's own release, having a much truncated lifespan in comparison to the rest as a result. The debut production run in the octagonal column bottles is the only way Figaro Lanvin exists, with the label "Monsieur Lanvin Figaro" throughout the cap and sometimes on the side, since bottling was done locally for various markets from imported oils made back in France and not standardized globally like with most houses. I'm guessing this premature death was because unlike the rest, Figaro Lanvin is a true flanker of the original release, sharing a lot of DNA with it from tip to tale, and had limited appeal from the onset. Also, when everything switched over to the filigreed spray column bottles, Figaro Lanvin did not make the leap, meaning it was the first discontinued of the bunch, which is why it's the rarest and most expensive to find in the aftermarket. A true unicorn to the hardest of the hardcore vintage masculine fragrance collector, Figaro Lanvin is a trophy for "boomers" looking to relive their golden years by way of scent, talked about discreetly in hushed tones only by a few people clutching the remaining bottles. In practical application, Figaro Lanvin feels like a kinder and gentler Monsieur Lanvin, replacing some of the dandy floral facets with aromatics. My biggest problem with Figaro Lanvin is it marries the common lavender and geranium barbershop pairing with a French chypre base, being one foot in the blue collar drugstore realm of the 1950's, and one foot in mod-era Paris, which is a contrived diaspora of elements made to work far beyond their points of origin in order to be a "Malcolm in the middle" between the rest of the Monsieur Lanvin line options. The results of this olfactive schism are less strange or exciting than I make that sound, I promise.

The main thing to me that sets Figaro Lanvin apart from the main pillar is lavender and geranium replacing all the fussier florals in the heart. The opening is otherwise much the same, with sharp bergamot and clary sage mixing with a juicy lemon note. The lavender mixing in with the geranium in the heart is not like that of Lavande Lanvin, being not a medicinal English lavender type but rather more of your brighter fresh barbershop lavender mixing with a golden green rosy geranium note much like classic mid-century men's chypres like Moustache Rochas (1949) or Revlon That Man (1958). This lavender and geranium accord mixes well with the clary sage up top and a bit of vetiver into the base which is very much identical to Vetyver Lanvin, smelling very much "dapper groomed man" in that Don Draper sort of way. Otherwise, the sandalwood, cedar, oakmoss, and labdanum from the exceedingly-French and raucous Monsieur Lanvin are all there. Civet isn't the only thing toned down, as the vanilla is also a bit lower in volume here, with something leathery entering the picture in the late stages of the wear. Figaro Lanvin feels a bit like it's all the other three mixed into one bottle conceptually, but with the largest share of the composition being from the pillar, wearing bright, aromatic, masculine, but with a touch of that urinous dandy kick. Wear time is eight hours and sillage is persistent even if this does not project like a modern "hype beast". Best use is spring and fall for formal wear in modern times, although even then you'll be a fish out of water compared to all the woody ambers or rich luxury orientals you're likely to see in this context in the 21st century. Once upon a time, a man with a sharp smelling conservative floral chypre with a hint of animal growl was classy, but now he'd just seem unwashed since smells like this don't exist in the modern olfactive lexicon of most. In a nutshell, you'll be wearing Figaro Lanvin pretty much only for yourself regardless of what time of year or context you chose for it.

Figaro Lanvin had some interesting posters that were similar in tone to the posters for the original Monsieur Lanvin, but showing a towel-drying man just after shower, a "clean smelling man" theme that Dior would auspiciously imitate with adverts for its launch of Eau Sauvage (1966) two years later. I'm guessing the attitude here was to make a fragrance that was bracing and spry enough to pitch towards the ever-present mens grooming market (especially with the accompanying accessories), but also chic enough in style to appeal with younger trend-conscious jet setters or white collar fellows, while something more functional like the Lavande Lanvin or Vetyver Lanvin would appeal with more-numerous conservative types in the day. Unfortunately, compromises of style and substance seldom work in markets based on face value, so the shocking and memorable Monsieur Lanvin stuck around for a few decades, while it's unrelated but solid flankers got new leases on life as relaunched separate scents, but Figaro Lanvin ended up the slightly more-plain and redundant alternative to the original that only people who really loved it reached for again after that first bottle, which is seldom enough to keep something in production unless you're a small-scale niche brand. Rose tinted glasses make this seem greater now than it probably was then, especially since anything with civet is automatically taboo devil's water for the musk fetishists in the online fragrance community, the people who scrounge over old civet, castoreum and hyraceum perfumes or artisanal baryard ouds the same way "FragBros" comb over batches of Creed Aventus (2010). For someone really interested in smells like this, too many examples more-easily obtained like the aforementioned Moustache or Monsieur de Givenchy (1959) still exist, making Figaro a very scarce and expensive alternative. Still, it's a nice-smelling piece of Lanvin's rollercoaster history. Thumbs up.
07th September, 2020 (last edited: 09th September, 2020)

Lavande Lanvin by Lanvin

The history of Lavande Lanvin (1964) is pretty topsy-turvy, and it gets probably the least talk of any Lanvin masculine from the period, but it is also perhaps the most cut and dry of them all, with the least complexity or surprises up its sleeve. This scent began life as one of 3 alternate flankers to Monsieur Lanvin (1964), all released simultaneously as a launch for an exclusive men's line, since the 1960's saw a boom of interest in fragrances marketed exclusively to men. Like the others of the line, this was at first labelled "Monsieur Lanvin Lavande", but after an undetermined amount of time, was shortened to Lavande Landin and sold in a uniform column sprayer that was shared by other releases from the house until disappearing from the market some time in the 80's as Lanvin was cast away by Charles of the Ritz back into family hands due to lack of profitability. Ironically, the least is known about Lavande Lanvin even though history proves that a direct lavender fragrance should have found success among guys at the time, so maybe the fact that this was originally a flanker that had little to do with the Monsieur Lanvin pillar (a practice common now) before being spun off to drift aimlessly without much advertising push had to do with its relative obscurity by comparison. House Lanvin was organizationally a mess anyway, so who really knows what the method behind their madness was with this anyway?

The opening is pretty much directly lavender, of the spiky English kind, which is funny because this is a French fragrance, but gets the point across well. There's some bergamot of the "Earl Grey" variety in here too, reminding me of eau de colognes like Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853), the lavender and the bergamot do their thing for the first fifteen minutes or so then clary sage comes into the mix. There are zero traces of the original Monsieur Lanvin in the fragrance at this point, and from what I can tell, there will continue to be zero connective tissue between them as the dry down continues. There is an appreciable amount of oakmoss and a bit of tonka into the base, making this as basic of a fougère as it gets, with little sweetness like current fougères would have, and no vanilla to round out the lavender/tonka/moss finish. Lavande Lanvin is rather academic after it settles, nothing special, but quality. You'd be a little hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and Yardley's English Lavender (1873) after this dry down arrives, but maybe that was the point of Lavande Lanvin upon original arrival as "Monsieur Lanvin Lavande": to offer an "officially masculine" take on the English lavender style safe for the man not wanting gender ambiguity to use. We are talking the early 60's here, just shy of the flower power explosion and summer of love, with The Beatles just showing up on Ed Sullivan. Wear time is an acceptable 6 hours, and performance overall is mild, making this an understated all-occasion fragrance. Granted, direct lavender fougères like this can get pretty boring too, but I don't think this was made to excite anyone either.

The more I think of the context surrounding Lavande Lanvin, the more it makes sense to me. Monsieur Lanvin was full-tilt floral and civet musk French fussiness, likely to turn off most slicked-hair Buick-driving American guys that still thought writing with your left hand meant the devil's path. Vetyver Lanvin and Figaro Lanvin (also part of the 1964 "Monsieur" launch) were more resolutely masculine than the pillar but still bold enough that the cigarettes-in-shirt-pocket types might receive them poorly, so a by-the-book fougère that recalled comfortable lavender-forward classics like Yardley's seemed to be the catch-all. Men who didn't want chances taken, but wanted something that spoke of higher quality, could turn to Lavande Lanvin in an age where stuff like Brut by Fabergé (1964) was just starting to reintroduce the fougère to the mainstream. Guys in the 50's had to endure bone-dry chypres full of sandalwood, leather, urinous musks, and sour soapy citrus accords since the late 40's, and Lanvin Lavande was a safe option that was still upmarket, much like some modern niche selections today. Once men started embracing really complex or challenging fragrances into the 80's, Lavande Lanvin's days were numbered. It's nothing special, but there's nothing wrong with it either, although beyond the ostensible collector, I see no reason to add a rare vintage and discontinued variant of something extremely common to your wardrobe. Thumbs up.
07th September, 2020

Vetyver Lanvin (original) by Lanvin

The original Vetyver Lanvin (1964) has a tumultuous history, beginning life as one of 3 alternate flankers to Monsieur Lanvin (1964), all released simultaneously as a launch for an exclusive men's line, since the 1960's saw a boom of interest in fragrances marketed exclusively to men. Like all the others of the line, this was initially labelled "Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver", but after just two short years, was giving packaging with the name it would keep for the bulk of its life in the market. Some say there are minor differences to "Monsieur Lanvin Vetyver" and Vetyver Lanvin, while others call them completely different fragrances, not to mention Lanvin as a house was notorious for renaming and repackaging its perfumes for different markets, and even made mixes of them (called "Eau Mixte"), so I did a lot of scouring before reaching the conclusion that they were at least effectively the same. This is especially likely since nobody makes mention anywhere else that the other scents which started life in 1964 as Monsieur Lanvin flankers (like Figaro Lanvin or Lavande Lanvin) became different scents once the "Monsieur Lanvin" preface was dropped. This stuff for the longest time had a cult following much like the original Vetiver Carven (1957) that only intensified in zealotry as it became scarce, but as the years went on and the stuff became too rare for people who didn't already have it to really bother with it, buzz on the original Vetyver Lanvin died. Ironically, people pay big bucks for stuff just like this coming from artisanal perfumers that give the middle finger to IFRA regulations regarding natural materials.

The opening of Vetyver Lanvin is pretty sour and bracing, with lemon and lime mixing with rosemary and aldehydes, a smidgen of the Monsieur Lanvin civet and floral skank showing its face. The heart of Monsieur Lanvin and Vetyver Lanvin are much the same, as they were all part of the same happy family at first, with carnation, rose, jasmine, and cinnamon. From here, Vetyver Lanvin quickly seeks to establish itself as a vetiver fragrance first, and the star note comes into the equation after only a few minutes on skin. Over the next 20 minutes or so, most of the Monsieur Lanvin vibes are crossfaded out as the Vetyver Lanvin vibes are crossfaded in, meaning the former moves to the background as a woody vetiver chypre base with a focus on oakmoss and a cedar/sandal mixture becomes the dominant facet. Dry patchouli and pine are also here, but the moss is extremely dominant alongside the vetiver, making Vetyver Lanvin smell like a moss-covered tree that's just been felled and cracked open during a lightning storm, clouds of musty verdant emanations wafting into the air. Civet and labdanum bring in a "Russian leather" note but they are not on the same level as they were in Monsieur Lanvin, and Vetyver Lanvin stays firmly rooted in the mirkwood. There is little of the grassy vibe people are used to with modern vetivers, and Vetyver Lanvin goes straight for the smoky dank aspects of the plant, but not mixing tobacco accords into it like other classic vetivers. Wear time is average but good for something sold at eau de cologne strength, and projection is a bang for 30 minutes then reduced to tight but punchy sillage thereafter. The smell of the original Vetyver Lanvin is very much a walk in an old forest once you get past that pissy opening and dandy floral dalliance that once tied it in with Monsieur Lanvin upon launch.

For most of the eight hour plus wear, you'll be head straight up a decaying treestump full of moss, green things, and must. This is the kind of "smell of nature" that would really appeal to something like the late Steve Erwin or anyone fond of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. In a modern perfume market, something this lucid and photo-realistic in tone would make a great niche perfume if moved upmarket, but the tumultuous production history of the original Vetyver Lanvin and indeed house Lanvin itself kept people out of the loop on this during its time on the market, meaning when Lanvin was resurrected by L'Oréal, the idea to re-orchestrate this into something more mass-appeal for the 2003 relaunch made more sense than reformulating the original composition to meet IFRA regulations. In short, the Vetyver Lanvin everyone talks smack about being hot garbage on a cracked plate is not this, and that early ambroxan-fueled mass-appeal experiment with only the slightest trace of vetiver is also discontinued, at it rightfully should be. The few die-hards out there clutching their stashed bottles of original Vetyver Lanvin are justified in their madness, and a taste for this kind of raw-smelling perfume is here again for big spenders in the niche arena, if only IFRA would allow them to be made and sold with warning label. Pure wood, moss, and vetiver with little else to get in the way, the sadly near-extinct original Vetyver Lanvin does not mince words beyond an old world opening with its sophisticated but succinct interpretation of the subject. Thumbs up.
06th September, 2020

Le Mâle Le Parfum by Jean Paul Gaultier

Alright, I'm going to be blunt: this should be called Ultra Mâle Le Parfum but it isn't. Instead, we get a fragrance called Le Mâle Le Parfum (2020), a scent with little tie-in to the original Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1995), but more direct connective tissue with Ultra Mâle (2015), bearing the name of the former because reasons I guess. Quentin Bisch has been busy with mass-appeal releases in recent times, also churning out Bad Boy (2019) for Caroline Herrera, while returning Natalie Gracia-Cetto lends her expertise from working on several limited Le Mâle flankers to this newest creation. Le Mâle Le Parfum isn't bad by any measure, but feels really redundant. While not a fan of his brand nor his usually inarticulate manner, I'll agree that the pragmatic Jeremy Fragrance summed this one up nicely by calling it "unnecessary", which it really is. Others who've sampled this before me also note that Le Mâle Le Parfum sits somewhere between a fun and office scent, like a weird compromise between an oriental work scent and a clubber with gourmand tones, but it isn't unpleasant at least. Perhaps best of all, Le Mâle Le Parfum doesn't have the screaming projection and eternal sillage of Ultra Mâle, instead swapping in a bit more development on skin that leads to something resembling a proper dry down. Keep in mind, this dry down is still not altogether impressive, as it is more of the usual paint-by-numbers designer consumer tested dreck, but it beats 100% linearity from start to finish.

The opening is going to be an instant callback to the vanilla of Ultra Mâle, with no mint or fruity notes in sight. The sweetness seems less powered by sticky ethyl maltol (although some is probably still here) and more by the vanilla itself, boosted by anise and a dusty cardamom. Some may say this smells close to something like Body Kouros (2000) or Rochas Man (1999) because of the throwback gourmand spices mixed with vanilla in the opening, but lavender and a slightly powdery iris bring in that office feel which helps Le Mâle Le Parfum steer slightly aft from such direct comparisons. Le Mâle Le Parfum plays around with the usual woody amber notes in the base, which is where this deviates significantly from Francis Kurkdjian's custom-built compound amber notes, smelling sharp, with tonka sweetness as an adjunct rather than deftly blended in, some fake incense norlimbanol type nonsense and ambrocenide or amber xtreme talking alongside the tonka, like Dior Sauvage Parfum (2019). If it sounds like I am at a loss to explain the dry down here, it's because it is so hodge podge and dialed into what's common or popular that it smells like everything and nothing all at once, but still better than Ultra Mâle. Wear time is eight hours, and performance will be moderate here, with best suggested use in winter. The most interesting part for me is the the anise and spices in the opening, since it takes me back to that 2000's place when that sort of thing existed in strict contrast to ozonics or aquatics, but not many are going to get that connection, nor is it substantial enough to warrant a full wear.

I don't see a lot of sense in owning Le Mâle Le Parfum if you have the original Le Mâle already and some of the fresher more polite flanker options for work, but if you're a huge fan of Ultra Mâle and want something marginally more work-appropriate, this may work, even if you're confined to colder months unless your commute is entirely air conditioned. Another cash grab or collector's fodder to a line already full of such things this feels like to me, but I really tried to give this a chance since I finally came around to the greatness of the original Le Mâle after spending years hating stuff due to its former ubiquity in the social scenes of my younger years. If this had been a proper fougère like the original Le Mâle but smoothed or rounded out with some oriental and/or gourmand notes, we'd have a real winner on our hands, because nothing like that exists in the Le Mâle range and it would be Jean Paul Gaultier's answer to stuff like Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men (2008) or even Emporio Armani Stronger With You (2017). As it stands, Le Mâle Le Parfum is just "slightly less-Ultra Mâle" and no disrespect to Quentin or Natalie, but a lack of involvement from Francis Kurkdjian on what is effectively his baby really shows here. If you're a collector then go ahead and snap this up, but anyone looking too add an interesting fragrance with a practical application to their wardrobe can do better. Pleasant, albeit a bit contrived, this is another torso bottle to add on the pile only for followers of the brand. Neutral.
06th September, 2020

Ultra Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean-Paul Gaultier Ultra Mâle (2015) is the reinvention of the original Jean Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1995) to celebrate its then 20 year anniversary. The fragrance that literally made the career of Francis Kurkdjian and made possible the status needed to successfully launch his own ultra-luxe niche perfume brand was surely deserving of his return for its 20th anniversary sequel, and considering he has worked on much of the Le Mâle line anyway, it only made sense. Kurkdjian and Gaultier were very smart about this one, taking what made the original so iconic and cutting free the elements that date it, while grafting on elements that would lift the accord up to make it "ultra" appealing to modern-day clubbers of the 2010s and beyond. Sadly, this means axing the fougère elements since that century-plus aged genre has finally fallen off its throne as the mainstay of men, with oakmoss/tonka bases taking on a "mature" quality that reads like "old man" with anyone born after the original Le Mâle launched. In their place, elements of modern post-aquatic "blue" fragrances and bubblegum-sweet "fruitchouli" scents were added, bringing Ultra Mâle into the age of the ambrox and tonka bomb, aka the children of scents like Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011) and Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013). Fragrance One: Date for Men by Jeremy Fragrance (2019) is said to copy this scent extensively, and I can see some similarities, but that scent's perfumer (Alberto Morillas) is no fool and knows better than to ape the work of someone like Kurkdjian.

Perhaps Kurkdjian studied the success of scents like the aforementioned Invictus and its forebearer, Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008), when he was tinkering with Ultra Mâle, since the start is very sweet just like them, with impressively strong ethyl maltol notes that wrap around lemon, bergamot, pear, and lavender. There is a bit of the original Le Mâle's trademark cooling mint, but it is buried in a mire of sweetness, folding into a heart of spiced vanilla, which JPG cleverly calls "black Aztec flower" since for them, vanilla was a black ripe flower when used as currency for trading. Cinnamon and a small dollop of cumin surround the vanilla, with hints of lavender and what feels like a raspberry ghost note further the gourmand-like interpretation of the original Le Mâle along into the syrupy base. A gigantic tonka dose mixed with cedar, a denatured patchouli isolate (pick one, there are so many), ambrox, and an amber accord very reminiscent of the one Kurkdjian uses for his own Maison Francis Kurkdjian Grand Soir (2016) finish this off. Performance is ungodly, and longevity is until you scrub it off with 300-grit sandpaper, so be warned this also doubles as a chemical weapon in high doses. This stuff is perfectly awkward in it's forced extroversion for the "please notice me so I can get laid" 21st century nightclub scene. Best use is basically at night if you're going to use Ultra Mâle, although summer nights are better for the original stuff or one of the fresh flankers.

For people who don't like extremely thick and sweet fragrances this is a no go, and for people who furthermore don't like their fragrances doing the talking for them so they can just shuffle and sulk to an endless trance loop won't find much favor here either. I don't blame Kurkdjian for turning his original gaudy gay scene club champion into a CISHET internet generation mating ritual monster, because that's where the money is for the line, although you'll have to make your own Tinder account before use, it's not included. I'm not the biggest fan of the "fruitchouli" and "tonka bomb" styles and have given big thumbs down to most entries in this class, and the original Le Mâle DNA is the only thing saving Ultra Mâle from wholesale rejection, but I still can't recommend this for any self-respecting person club scene or not. To me, there are still plenty of loud sweat-enhancing perfumes out there that cook under the body heat of dancing and grinding on someone who's caught your eye, but still have enough class self-respect about them that they leave someone caught in the wake of your sillage a chance to react before they're choking on niceties. Ultra Mâle takes everything that ham-fisted about Le Mâle and dials it to 11, which is exactly what JPG and people looking to buy this want but maybe not what they necessarily need, if you catch my drift. Neutral.
06th September, 2020

L’Homme À la rose by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Maison Francis Kurkdjian L'Homme À la Rose (2020) is unexpected men's version of a line nobody expected, and in part that is because Kurkdjian himself didn't expect to make it. The juicy story is that originally he was commissioned by an undisclosed designer looking to step foot into the perfume market, since he still works as a perfumer for other houses like he did before launching his brand in 2009, and that the designer in question dropped the project before any finished form of the fragrance entered their possession. Kurkdjian was left with incomplete work that he didn't want to let go wasted, so he retooled what is presumably the base of this incomplete and aborted anonymous designer launch fragrance into a men's version of the popular À la Rose (2014). I wasn't particularly kind to that scent, but I didn't exactly hate it either, I just found it to be too generic and downmarket in vibe for the price it commanded, as has tended to happen from time to time with both MFK and other niche houses looking to straddle the wall between mass-appeal and exclusivity with their wares. This one however reads differently to me, although some hardcore fans may read as "more of the same" from a house known for these types of fresh long-lasting perfumes, with the designer salvage operation nature of its existence not being taken into consideration against that. Taken into account the base of L'Homme À la Rose also feels more designer-like than anything since Amyris Homme (2012), and I can already see the snobs coming for ol' Frankie with pitchforks and torches ready to go.

L'Homme À la Rose keeps most of what was present in À la Rose, namely the combination of lighter Western-style and deeper Turkish roses, but builds up a dry woody amber "nü-chypre" foundation underneath similar to what anchors scents like Petit Matin (2016) and many of the "Forte" variants of the MFK Aqua range. What this amounts to is something familiar and mass-appealing as the anchor, with a rose scent built on top of it. There will be no middle ground here for most, you'll either love or hate what's going on, but after the bright grapefruit and "À la Rose accord" fade a bit into the base (I don't detect any heart notes), you're left with mostly sage, white musk, and "amberwood" courtesy of the popular amber xtreme molecule, adding just a speck of rockrose. Similarities to Petit Matin come from the way the florals interact with the citrus here (grapefruit and rose cocktail as opposed to lemon and the litsea cubeba/lavandin/neroli cocktail), then finish on a fresh woody amber base that is never too harsh. I guess there are still some traces of designer-like artificiality thanks to the presence of the "amberwood", but MFK has always leaned heavy on abstract musk, wood, or ambergris/amber molecules anyway, so it seems a nitpick. Projection and sillage are mightier here than with Petit Matin however, and like with Amyris Homme (2012), this one can turn ugly with over-application, so be judicious with sprays. Best use is casual spring through fall, with more heat being better for performance. 8 to 10 hours is what to expect, more in high heat.

Some may say the citric floral woody musk genre has been done to death by Kurkdjian in his own vanity plate line, and they would be right, with well over a dozen entries including combined revisions of the "Matin" perfumes, variations of the "Aqua" perfumes, plus now this. However, citrus florals are a strong suit for the perfumer, he does them well and is probably the only niche perfumer at this price point that challenges the "almighty" Creed at a genre they purport to have centuries of expertise in, for what it's worth. In terms of designers, the only thing this comes close to is probably Cartier Déclaration d'un Soir (2012) as some others may have observed, but that scent is more focused on dry Damask rose and wood, while L'Homme À la Rose has more to say with the surrounding grapefruit and the more-complex rose cocktail that defines the À la Rose line, which actually benefits here from having a drier citrus and wood treatment versus the plain "pretty" rose of the original or droll fruity floral treatment of L'eau À la Rose (2019). L'Homme À la Rose is still at it's most basic, a rose fragrance, so if you are a dude that maintains "roses are for girls", then this one is not for you. I really like what's going on here, but with Xerjoff also having a ton of good (albeit heavier) options in this range, the luxury citrus floral masculine market is starting to look like the designer aquatic market of twenty years ago. Also, ignore the label as L'Homme À la Rose feels very unisex all around like most luxury niche competitors in this segment. Thumbs up.
31st August, 2020

Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette by Guerlain

A lot of people attribute the mastery of perfume Jacques Guerlain possessed to earlier classics like L'Heure Bleue (1912), Mitsouko (1919) or even the roaring 20's standard of Shalimar (1925), but to me his mastery was never more apparent than it is in Vol de Nuit (1933). The story goes that Vol de Nuit was inspired by the novel of the same name (titled "Night Flight" for English readers) by Jacques' friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with a strong theme of the perfume being women in aviation, but more specifically flying through the cold of night. Because of this, Guerlain had to somehow capture the essence of cold air across aluminum wings, the dark expanse of ocean and forest below an aircraft traveling thus, and capture a strong female character "in a man's world" like aviation was at the time. By the way, he had to somehow do all this with the standard materials of the day, which did not include all the aromachemicals, captive molecules, and isolates from raw materials that perfumers in the 21st century have at their disposal, and also include the house "Guerlinade" accord somewhere in the mix. To say Jacques Guerlain's work was cut out for him is quite an understatement, but he somehow delivered in Vol de Nuit. Something like this may be hard to wear functionally in the 21st century, with the focus of modern perfume being on when it it appropriate to use it (e.g. sport fragrances), but a die-hard individualist needs not context for perfume.

This particular review is from a 1989 eau de toilette sample without any other concentration or vintage for comparison, so I cannot speak to the differences in newer examples or deeper vintages, nor concentrations like the extrait. The opening of Vol de Nuit comes across sweet, powdery, and tart with a familiar blend of bergamot, lemon, orange blossom, and petitgrain in the top. Anyone who has smelled classic perfumery from the first half of the 20th century will get this opening. Vol de Nuit quickly shifts into white florals for the initial transition to the heart, where a very classic arrangement of daffodil, narcissus, violet, carnation, jasmine, and rose resides. These florals do the usual seamless Guerlain blending, especially when that almost gourmand-like "Guerlinade" enters the picture. What's funny here is a sharp galbanum note surfaces, but not in the top as you might expect, but it provides a metallic gleam in this context when buttressed between sweet citrus, powdery florals, and a chypre base beneath. Oakmoss and orris butter mix with leathery castoreum to make a dry chypre savon accord that continues to sharpen and get a bit cold into the final dry down, smoothed by benzoin, vanilla, and rounded with spice. Ambergris shows up last with a breathy musky facet but the chilled air aspects remain, with little sweetness beyond the vanilla and lingering "Guerlinade". Wear time is over eight hours, and sillage can be terribly strong so be careful, at least in this old eau de toilette form.

Vol de Nuit is a statement perfume, at least as much of one as can be seen by 21st century eyes that have disdain for antique floral chypre arrangements, and probably reads very feminine due to the powder and floral aspects through the mid. The chypre finish reads dandy to my nose so a man could wear this with some confidence, but otherwise this is for the strong women that fancy themselves like Hélène Boucher or Marlene Deitrich. Suggested use would be fall through spring, as in summer this may wear too heavy, and since I can't speak to the (usually high) quality of Thierry Wasser's modern reformulation, you may want to sample it first if that's the route you take. I personally see this as a huge artist achievement since Guerlain basically made a bold and cool fragrance with a heavy aromatic background using standard florals, citruses, woods, and musks. In a world where most perfumes have chemicals as abstract as the concepts they try to create through scent, it's fun to see someone do the same thing in a decidedly "low-tech" manner, even if only because there was no other way to do it with perfume chemistry still being far then from what it is now. Vol de Nuit is wearable art from another time, worth smelling if only for the edification, and one of the greatest masterpieces from the house. Jacques Guerlain would continue to compose into the 50's before Jean-Paul would finally take over for him, but never again make something so poignant as this. Thumbs up.
31st August, 2020

Bulgari Man Glacial Essence by Bulgari

Bvlgari Man Glacial Essence (2020) is yet another flanker entry into the growing Bvlgari Man (2010) line. This flanker seems to try being a bit more of an actual flanker in execution, having a bit of DNA from the original Bvlgari Man in the mix, possibly because Alberto Morillas returned to work on it, and he created the original. Outside of that, what you see on the bottle is mostly what you get: a cool "glacial" interpretation of the Bvlgari Man accord with a few neat aromachemical tricks to get you there along the way. I don't think this stuff goes out of its way to be a statement maker or an extroverted compliment beast of a fragrance based on my time spent with it, but sort of instead goes in more of a "cologne" direction by being a lighter, fresher, more casual option to the main fragrance. I have a few arguments with this approach considering the price and product placement of this entry in the line, but more on that a little later. Alberto Morillas has done something fairly unique and creative here, defying expectations of another airy/aquatic sort of fragrance that smells like an expensive clone of a discounted Nautica scent, but is it enough?

The opening of Bvlgari Man Glacial Essence is a sharp cool minty push of geranium, juniper, and some kind of ozonic note which I have no name for (possibly an aldehyde type). This initial blast actually fades quite quickly, and within ten minutes, the geranium is all that survives to merge with an aromatic trace of the original Bvlgari Man, which I'm taking to be the original's lotus accord and white woods. These white woods are sort of reminiscent of what goes on in stuff like Azzaro Visit (2003) and Gucci Rush for Men (2000), but not quite so creamy as that, with soapy clean facets of orris mixing in. Bvlgari states artemisia is present but I get none of that, although the "clearwood" base and musks become the star players into the first hour. Clearwood is a Firmenich captive that is basically another form of synethetic patchouli which has been stripped of all terpenes and is pretty much just the patchoulol left behind. Combined with laundry musks, this makes a vaguely woody amber profile that isn't jarring like most intense "woody amber" molecules but still creates some disassociation in the brain with what it claims to be (which is wood). Wear time is about 6 hours and sillage is pretty average, with projection poofing after thirty minutes. Best use for this is spring and summer mostly, as something you'd go outdoors with or on a day running errands, like so many other minty fresh clean things that also fit this need.

As alluded to before, this is not a "beast mode" fragrance and feels more like a hot weather refresher or after-shower "white t-shirt" sort of scent, which is actually a problem for a designer billed to be an eau de parfum costing $115 at retail. Usually with things pegged as eau de parfum by designers and sold at a slight upcharge from their standard eau de toilette fare, something bolder, smoother, or longer-lasting is expected, since an eau de parfum flanker to an eau de toilette is viewed as a premium option. Here with Bvlgari Man Glacial Essence, they've basically taken something like Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau Fraîche (2020) and billed it like Yves Saint Laurent Y Eau de Parfum (2018) instead, which is unacceptable to me. If this was sold at or below the price of Bvlgari Man, I would be totally on board and this release would make more sense, but at prices which put it up against some really nice options at retail (like stuff from Dior or Chanel), Bvlgari Man Glacial Essence seems to lose the plot very fast. Still, at a discount this might not be a bad alternative to aquatics that have been done to death, but that's still not saying much. Sample first, because even die-hard Bvlgari Man fans might see Glacial Essence as inessential. Neutral.
30th August, 2020

Polo Red by Ralph Lauren

The Polo line continues on ever-popular thanks to the endless potential for flankers, from Polo Crest (1991) and Polo Sport (1994) through to Polo Blue (2002), Polo Black (2005), Polo Explorer (2007) the various Polo Big Pony (2010) fragrances one through four, and now Polo Red (2013). The "Big Pony" fragrances were a mistake, and did not kick off the 2010's on a strong foot for the Polo line, being these aqueous exercises in extreme synthetic minimalism like Ralph Lauren had been copying Calvin Klein's homework, but it wasn't the first time old Ralphy boy had dropped a bomb in a Polo bottle on us, since Crest and Explorer were not well-received flankers either (discounting all the in-between flankers-of-flankers that have been ignored out of sheer irrelevance), so something like Polo Red was needed. Olivier Gillotin was put on task for this, undoubtedly for the success of his unorthodox work with both niche houses and designer-tier brands like Ed Hardy, but he was still something of a controversial choice for a mostly conservative brand like Ralph Lauren. Gillotin delivered, and the continued flanker-flankers produced under the Polo Red name would bear his mark as well, so I guess popular consensus approves of his quirks. I usually approve of his quirks too, although I admit sometimes those quirks can't save the brief he's being forced to follow, and I think that is the case here with Polo Red.

Those quirks in Polo Red manifest as a weird subversion of gourmand notes in a fresh mass-appeal context. This isn't the first time he would do something of that nature, but we are dealing with Ed Hardy in these former contexts so people tend to take his work under that nameplate with a grain of salt from the onset for the very fact that it is for Ed Hardy, a brand not to be taken seriously. However, in Polo Red, this fresh subversion of gourmand tones has to come across as serious because Polo is a very serious line, and Gillotin somehow pulls a rabbit out of his hat for the occasion. The openings is one of the best I've smelled in modern designer perfumes made in the 2010's, using grapefruit, cranberry, and lemon notes mixed with smooth lavandin (a dry medicinal plant related to lavender). Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to see where all the R&D budget went, because the heart of well-executed sage, saffron, and cedar drys down very quickly after about 30 minutes into a generic "woody amber" accord of amber xtreme, tonka, and a coffee note that adds the gourmand subversion to the mix, avoiding the usual expected ambroxan overdose accord instead. I'm not a fan of this base type but if you dig this, performance is outstanding with longevity for a day. Best use here is casual or probably office during spring and fall, thanks to the dry one-two woody-amber punch that becomes the entirety of the scent after the first hour.

A fragrance like Polo Red could have been marvelous with a bit more natural wood (or at least natural-smelling) wood in the base, alongside maybe some vanilla for smoothing, with the coffee note lingering to add that bit of gourmand subversion Gillotin seemingly likes to inject into aquatics, woody ambers, blue scents, and other modern-day fresh masculine genres. Unfortunately, because either he or his bean counter overlords decided that the best cheapest and most-effective answer was a woody amber molecule overdose, Polo Red ends up being a slightly-better version of something like Acqua di Giò Absolu Instinct (2019), which has the woody amber turned up even higher and doesn't benefit from a fruity lavender fougère-like structure on top. Granted, this isn't insufferable or anything, but I think a smoother and more well-rounded eau de parfum version is needed to make this truly a world-class contender like Polo Blue or Polo Black was in this situation. A lot of old heads hated Polo Black because it followed the sour fruit musk ozonic trend aimed at then-twentysomething millenials, and Polo Double Black (2007) was made in capitulation for those older conservative types, so I don't see why a "Polo Double Red" or something of that type couldn't happen. As is, this is a beautiful start that leads to mediocrity on skin, and something that could have been so much more if designers like Ralph Lauren were just a little less greedy on development costs, but it doesn't outright suck. Test with caution. Neutral.
30th August, 2020

M by Banana Republic

Banana Republic M (1995) is one half of a his/her launch that included Banana Republic W (1995) as well. This male counterpart of the pair is a simple, clean, pure sort of fragrance, greatly epitomizing what the 1990's were all about in the perfume market, making use of the latest aromachemical wizardry of the day to evoke freshness and an affable nature. Jean-Claude Delville, a perfumer perhaps most-known (or notorious) for delivering most of Liz Claiborne's 90's masculine fragrance canon, preceded his work on Curve for Men (1996) with this fragrance for Banana Republic, and oddly somehow this feels both more refined yet also more basic than that 90's poster child of teen mallrat perfume. The major focus of M is tropical citrus over creamy woods and musks, with hints of deftly-applied green notes to keep the attention of the wearer. At times I'm reminded of what some 90's clubbers playing on similar themes could have been like had they not been amped-up for club use, but ah well.

M by Banana Republic opens rather quietly, with soft fig leaf, plum, and a "triple-sec" combination of orange, lemon, and lime. This green citrus comfort note is likely made to conjure the smell of a tropical getaway, and it does so startlingly well. The hedione, rosemary, sage, and round lavender assure things stay comfy into the heart. A bit of violet leaf picks up for the fig leaf top, carrying on the light green crispness, while the plush white musk, synthetic sandalwood, oakmoss, and tonka base anchor to skin while blending it all together into a meringue. Bits of dry cedar come and go to assert a sort of clean masculine woody dryness, but the sweetness of the opening binds to the musks and never fully departs. Some folks get a ghost tangerine note and I can see that too, but mostly it's clean cozy citrus and musk with leafy woody bits zooming about in a close quiet sillage that lasts over 8 hours in warmer weather, less in cold. Suggested use in casual warm weather events or after showers; M by Banana Republic is really just that simple a fragrance, and doesn't have a big raison d'être behind it.

The only main concern worth mentioning when investigating M by Banana Republic is how many different ways they've tried repackaging and tweaking the juice inside. Earliest versions with affixed labels are the best outside of current production, which has seen an "upgrade" to eau de parfum which smells remarkably close to vintage. All the stuff inbetween, from the blue liquid and black M logo, to blue liquid and bottle-spanning M, clear liquid and bottle-spanning M, and a host of others all represent varying degrees of quality, which is disconcerting. Stick with the oldest EdT or newest (as of this review) EdP and you should be fine. Other than that, there isn't much more to tell. If a smooth, clean, green, creamy citrus that comes across like sunlight through beige curtains in a cheap hotel room sounds like your cuppa (more appealing than you may realize), then M is for you. Fans of clubbers like Romo Uomo by Laura Biagiotta (1994) or Boss in Motion by Hugo Boss (2002) wanting something more subdued should also take note. Thumbs up.
29th August, 2020

Eau de Campagne by Sisley

Sisley Eau de Campagne (1974) is a marvelous chypre fragrance and early work of famed perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, launching the house of Sisley then receiving a wider distribution in 1976 (hence conflicting dates). What's most fascinating is Sisley was originally founded by Jean-Francois Laport and partner Roland de Saint Vincent, as Laport's first niche perfume and cosmetics brand, then abruptly sold off to Hubert d'Ornano (whose family still owns it today) so Laport could found L'Artisan Parfumeur on his own. Therefore, Sisley is sort of a prototype L'Artisan Parfumeur in a way, although Laport himself didn't get his hands on making the perfume like he would with L'Artisan or his later house Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier. Bringing on board a young Jean-Claude Ellena, Sisley launched with a fragrance meant to evoke the countryside of Campagne, a small village in France. The profile is unmistakably chypre, but the breakdown is exceedingly green as with most chypres from the 70's that didn't rely on tons of aldehydes or oriental notes. Eau de Campagne would be the only perfume Sisley sold until Eau de Soir (1990), and a huge bath range exists around it too, so Ellena must have done something right,

Jean-Claude had not yet developed his characteristic "transparent" style, but most of this can also be attributed to the aromachemcials he would later favor for this style not yet existing in the 70's, but Eau de Campagne isn't heavy or particularly opaque either. Most interesting about this perfume is the opening, which sets the usual galbanum and bergamot found in the "mean green" 70's chypre style alongside dry plum, a soft lemon, and tomato leaf. The effect of this reminds me a lot of a middle ground between Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955) and Annick Goutal Ninféo Mio (2010) but with a touch of dark dessicated fruit. This blending of soft plush citrus, plum, and sharp leafy goodness continues with basil and pelagoriums in the heart (geranium), which makes Eau de Campagne glow delicately alongside jasmine hedione and muguet, negating any dourness the plum might bring. The base is the usual chypre business with oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, and a soft clean musk. Eau de Campagne is wholesome, uplifting, verdant and clean, like a more-lucid Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) that reads neutral in gender, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ellena was inspired by Roudnitska when making this. Performance is average all around since this is a rather light chypre, and suggested use is casual daytime spring and summer, or after shower.

IFRA regulations have taken some pep out of Eau de Campagne's step thanks to restrictions on oakmoss (or rather the atranol in oakmoss), but I've smelled what chypres like Eau de Campagne were like before the restrictions, and there's little change besides the fat, semi-bitter, and buttery skin feel left behind by a heavy dose of oakmoss fixative in fairly basic, academic chypres like this; in other words, you're getting a light woody scent either way. Jean-Claude Ellena certainly didn't reinvent the wheel with Eau de Campagne (nor would he at this stage of his career), although heavy hitters come later when another seeming ode to Roudnitska would come out by the name of Cartier Déclaration (1998). Based on his work there, he'd further refine his use of transparent woody aromachemicals until Terre d'Hermès (2006) would launch, virtually stealing the thunder of the similar preceding L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu (2004); must be some irony in there somewhere. Just a beautiful fresh, green, soft chypre that is instant good mood in a bottle. Hunting down older specimens can be a rather pricey affair for those addicted to oakmoss, but this was always made to wear light (also like Eau Sauvage), so all you're paying for is a moss-dominated skin scent for deep vintage. A classic! Thumbs up!
28th August, 2020

Morgan de Toi Homme by Morgan de Toi

Morgan de Toi is to France what Victoria's Secret is to the US, except much older and nowhere near as campy or lewd in their designs and marketing. Not much of the brand has made it stateside, but they had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic 650 retail locations worldwide, and like Victoria's Secret, had a line of designer-quality perfumes sold mostly at the registers within their stores (see also: Zara). All of these fragrances were naturally marketed to women save for one token men's entry called quite blandly Morgan de Toi Homme (2003), which ended up being a woody ozonic musk that fell perfectly in line with what designers like Dior, Givenchy, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, and Perry Ellis had done at the time. Sharp, tart, brash, playful, but ultimately tame after it dries down, Morgan de Toi Homme is perhaps one of the easier going of this usually bombastic genre. For this reason, the scent comes across like a bit more work-friendly but still young and energetic scent for then-hopeful Millennials in college, a weird contrast between playful mischief and business casual, which may be why it never made a splash. Most guys already in their 30's in the 2000's would have ignored this, as would anyone not familiar with the boutique chain.

The opening of Morgan de Toi is all sharp bergamot and lime ozonic accord with bits of dry juniper not unlike a good gin but amped to eleven. Clary sage comes in within moments to be joined by a metallic geranium, raw spearmint, and hedione white lift in the heart. Morgan de Toi calms down in about an hour to reveal a woody musky chypre-like base, with sandalwood and cedar mingling with vetiver and oakmoss coated by a thin veneer of silky white musks. Overall this reminds me a bit of Avon Prospect (2003) but with slightly more vivid presentation, which itself is more about juniper and not ozonic in the top anyway. The projection goes from Daft Punk arena concert to intimate jazz club in about an hour, leaving people to believe this has poor performance if they spray their chest or airways a bunch. The stuff lasts, but goes hard only in the first hour, then becomes more discreet but detectable for 8 hours afterwards. If you're still wearing this style nowadays, Morgan de Toi Homme feels best for spring through early fall. The dead of summer might be better for an aquatic, however. I also must mention the very heavy bottle and solid built-in sprayer with aluminum surround. This thing is a beast.

The release of Morgan de Toi Homme is similar in purpose to the release of Very Sexy for Him by Victoria's Secret (2001), in that it gave straight guys something to buy when taking their girlfriends shopping or something those same girlfriends could gift their boyfriends from Morgan de Toi, and the scent was originally part of a matching set with the titular Morgan de Toi (2003), which was previously Morgan de Toi Femme when this masculine counterpart was on shelves. Annick Menardo had worked on a ton of designers so was a good choice to perfume this, as was partner Gérard Anthony, with a huge resume of gentlemanly fougères and orientals to his name. The two of them didn't exactly create their best work (unless you're a Morgan de Toi fan), but the results of their collaboration is a painfully Y2K exercise that ends up being both fun and more wearable than likely intended. Too bad this is discontinued and sells for stupid money it's not worth in the aftermarket, and if I hadn't come across old testers being tossed out from a local shop, I wouldn't have likely been able to review it. Thumbs up.
26th August, 2020

Gucci Guilty pour Homme Eau de Parfum by Gucci

I gotta give Alessandro Michele props for trying to be different with the Gucci Guilty range. Ever since the release of Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme (2017) it has been weirdo after weirdo hitting the shelves, from Gucci Guilty Oud (2018) and Gucci Guilty Cologne (2019), to Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme (2019) and now Gucci Guilty pour Homme Eau de Parfum (2020), with hits and misses playing leap frog over each other. This fragrance has some things common with the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011), namely the heart notes, and seems to replace the original Gucci Guilty Intense pour Homme (2011) as the "step up" from the EdT. The bizarro factor comes in with the top notes mostly, and how the base under that familiar heart is handled, but we'll get to that later. The big important thing to remember here is this is meant to be an eau de parfum version of the original pillar entry to this line, so no matter how weird this tries to be, it is ultimately still beholden to the smell of the namesake. What this means is unlike Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme or Gucci Guilty Oud, this is meant to build on the original DNA, not contrast it, so if you don't like that DNA, move along without wasting your time, unless you're able to sample for free at a brick and mortar store. I like Gucci Guilty pour Homme Eau de Parfum, but I can't help feeling like I should be getting more than what I ultimately got here.

The opening is supposedly containing rose, chili pepper, salt, and vinegar. Yeah, that's a stretch of the imagination for me too, but apparently Alessandro Michele thought people might enjoy a fragrance that reminds them of potato chips. In practice, this means a dry piquant rose with a bit of salt to it that makes the rose almost undetectable, not that anything in the top (including that rose) is real anyway. After this strange rose-but-not-really opening comes the familiar orange blossom, lavender, and cedar notes of the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme. Gone is the ethyl maltol and galaxolide sweet shower gel musk display that would go on to inspire mainstream darlings like Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013) and its many clones, meaning that lavender and neroli hang out there naked with the cedar, making a drier and more mature, but vaguely familiar take on the classic Gucci Guilty DNA. In a way, this is like removing all artificial flavorings from your favorite snack food and seeing if it still holds up, which is fascinating. The base is the type of patchouli brought over from Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme, but the rest of the Fougère elements that one borrows are left behind. In the end, you get mostly dry woody aromachemicals and ambroxan with the familiar Gucci Guilty heart, and none of the sweet shampoo vibes, which is unexpected, like the Gucci Guilty take on Dior Sauvage (2015) or something like that. I also think the black bottle looks too much like Gucci Guilty Oud, but now I'm just nitpicking.

Suggested use is pretty much where you'd use the original, as outside the sweetness, this is still mainly a fresh and clean scent with hints of aromatics to make it smell "masculine" according to conventional wisdom. Sillage is good and projection is alright, while longevity is also about average too, so the only thing "eau de parfum" about this is the marketing. Speaking of that, I need to address the elephant in the room: Jared Ledo at a laundromat. Once again, Alessandro Michele was not to be outdone in the quirky designer department, stuffing a bearded long-haired Jared Leto in a magenta sport coat with a huge artificial corsage looking like a pink rose, sitting on a laundry table with a pink plastic laundry basket nearby. He's presumably doing a load at what looks like the local ghetto laundromat, decked out in bespoke Gucci couture that probably costs more than everyone else in there doing clothes makes in a year. It's another "hey look at me I'm an everyman just like you" sort of detached gesture that makes me think some fashion industry moguls like Alessandro Michele never go outside to see how the rest of us live. Anyways, you're getting a drier and more mature Gucci Guilty pour Homme here, which amounts to more versatility for fans of the pleasant but oft-copied workhorse range. I'd still rather have a reissue of Gucci Nobile (1988) though, but this passes muster all the same, and could very well be someone's signature, which is something the ultra ubiquitous-smelling original EdT could never pull off anymore. Thumbs up.
26th August, 2020

Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée by Givenchy

Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée by Givenchy (2020) is a surpise like for me, as I haven't been very kind to the rest of the Gentleman by Givenchy (2017) range. The reason for my ire has been obvious, as the landmark Givenchy Gentleman (1974) is one of the greatest patchouli fragrances ever made, so the modern soft-reboot (they kept the original too) should also at least be prominently featuring patchouli, but it didn't. Instead, we got something that had fractioned patchouli molecules in the mix somewhere (for that generic olfactive mayonnaise thickness), and a boring sweet nothing-doing generalist in a bottle resembling the gentlemanly classic. I didn't hate Gentleman by Givenchy, but it was nothing to write home about. The subsequent flankers did nothing to help the line's case for me, as they just presented different shades of the same boring color palette, but it looks like line perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson actually got their act together here. Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée actually has a noticeable patchouli riff now, even if it is still the sweet terpine-free processed kind, which can still be good if executed correctly as niche perfumer Ramon Monegal showed us with his Mon Patchouly (2009) over a decade prior. The rest of Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée still feels familiar enough to tie it in with the Gentleman range, but has a few extra tweaks that make it finally feel like the modern classic this range was supposed to be. Does this redeem Givenchy in my eyes? No, not really, because they still either killed off or rebooted everything of value they've made in the 20th century to wring blood from the short-term profits turnip.

Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée opens much the same as Gentleman by Givenchy except for the lavender and fruity pear/pineapple notes being replaced by geranium and coriander. The sweet citrus is still there, as is the ambroxan warmth, but it no longer comprises the base like it did in the original Gentleman by Givenchy. The iris has been moved down to the heart and next to that iris is cacao pod and a woody note that is listed as cedar but likely is some aromachemical. I actually think it works well because the patchouli comes in fast to thicken and round it all out without any kind of scratch entering the picture. This non-green patchouli then becomes the focus alongside gourmand tones of the cacao and a high-quality synthetic sandalwood note (similar to what Cartier uses). Finally, touches of oakmoss that provide linkback to the original Givenchy Gentleman, and some late-stage musk (but sadly not civet) finish the job. The added woodiness, mossiness, and chocolatey tones really work well to visualize Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée as a modern Givenchy Gentleman, using sustainable materials, and tweaks for modern palettes not okay with paint thinner patchouli accords and cat pee notes in their oriental fragrances. There is something still irreproachably genteel and perhaps a tad more virile in the original Givenchy Gentleman that this can't begin to accurately envision with it's current olfactive makeup, but Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée is an enjoyable wear despite that so long as you can handle some sweetness. Overall, what makes this work is that gourmand sweetness tempered by iris, spice, wood, and the patchouli itself, making for an almost-niche experience within designer taste ranges and materials budget. Wear time is easily over 10 hours and this feels mostly of the romantic persuasion to me, useful more in cool weather than warm.

In summary, Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée is as much a legitimate patchouli fragrance for men as Givenchy Gentleman, so much that I think this juice should replace what is in the bottle of the original Gentleman by Givenchy, and then everyone can forget that ever happened. Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée presents the idea of the original Givenchy Gentleman with 2020 designer eyes rather than 1974 ones, meaning it is coming into a world where green notes and animalic musks feel archaic at best or offensive at worst to the mainstream man, since everyone has a sweet tooth regardless of gender where fragrance is concerned and wants to smell attractive yet inoffensive. Social consciousness didn't exist for designer perfumes in 1974, since they were still expensive high-art exercises meant to showcase how ahead of things the designer making them was with their overall vision of fashion. People who wanted safe and comfortable smells wore Avon or drugstore brands like Shulton, Revlon, and the like at that time, and used the pricier designer stuff to make a statement. Nowadays drugstore brands are all but extinct, and designers have bloated out market-wise to encroach both on that utilitarian market and the upper-end luxury stuff, with no need to make bold artistic strokes to impress anymore, which is why Gentleman Eau de Parfum Boisée better fits the idea of a men's patchouli from the house. Perhaps this is to Gentleman Givenchy as Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche (1982) was to the original Drakkar (1972). One can only hope, but if this instead proves to be a limited release that goes away too soon, we'll have another Givenchy unicorn on our hands like Insensé, you'll see. A far cry from their best work, but the best men's fragrance Givenchy has done in at least 5 years. Thumbs up.
26th August, 2020